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Beijingers ask how long blue skies will last
August 20, 2008 / 2:44 AM / 9 years ago

Beijingers ask how long blue skies will last

<p>Francisco Javier Gomez (R) of Spain crosses the finish line in fourth place behind Bevan Docherty of New Zealand (L), Simon Whitfield (C) of Canada and Jan Frodeno of Germany (not pictured) during the men's triathlon competition at the Ming Tomb reservoir in the Changping District of northern Beijing at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 19, 2008. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay</p>

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing’s buildings and at times even the mountains can be clearly seen during the day, while the sunset in the evening turns scattered clouds pink and orange.

Normal in other capital cities, the unusual clarity of the Beijing air this month has some citizens wondering how long it can last once the Olympics are over and extraordinary measures ease.

More than half the cars were ordered off the roads and the worst polluting plants shut for hundreds of kilometers from late July to mid-September, to ensure blue skies for the Olympics and Paralympic Games. After some initial murky mugginess, the measures worked and air pollutants have dropped measurably.

But will grey smoggy skies return with the cars?

“We can breathe much better. These restrictions show the difference the cars make,” said Wang Weihua, a taxi driver.

“It will get worse once they are back on the road, but it could still be better than it was, because of the environmental measures taken regarding the factories.” Environmental officials have promised that some of the gains this month will be continued into the future, with plans to monitor ozone levels and the finest particulate matter.

New measures would reduce auto emissions, coal pollution and construction site dust, Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said on Tuesday.

“My feeling is that if they can just keep the current measures, that’s OK. For our lives, they work,” said Zhang Zhizhou, 28, a technology worker who commutes to work on the subway from the Beijing suburbs, adding that enough money has been spent on the issue already.

“Pollution control measures are already pretty good, I mean the traffic and air pollution restrictions ... Now Beijing has a lot of parks, and the level of investment is high.”

The Olympic experience shows that future pollution measures in Beijing will have to include factory pollution, rather than primarily addressing car exhaust as Los Angeles did, said Deborah Seligsohn, of World Resources Institute.

Alternate day rules, when cars can only be driven on even or odd days depending on their license plate number, should still apply for Beijing even after the Olympics, wrote a blogger named “Buyoobuyoo”.

“Beijing should be a city where people can enjoy the sunshine and blue sky, instead of living in the dust.”

Additional reporting by Ralph Jennings

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